On my most recent trip to Uganda, I arrived just in time for
terrorist warnings at the Entebbe airport. Luckily, I had no idea about the
warnings until well after I had landed, cleared customs, and left the airport.
Since the first major and most devastating terrorist attack had occurred during
the Football World Cup Finals 4 years ago in a sports bar and Ethiopian
restaurant in Kampala, the return of the World Cup also meant the return of
worrying about what might happen. Thank goodness Soft Power Health’s home
village of Kyabirwa, also home to the NRE campsite, is not a particularly
populated hub of activity even when it is busy, and hopefully would not rate
high on the list of prime targets for terrorists. It also happens to be far
away from any big towns or cities.
As always, it was great to be back in Uganda
and just in time for 4th of July. Every Peace Corps volunteer from
Uganda showed up for 4th of July festivities at NRE and it was quite
a celebration – it reminded me of the heyday of the infamous NRE bar.
Along with catching up on a number
of Soft Power Health projects, including making sure our summer volunteers were
settled into their research tasks, following up on a number of community
patients and visiting a number of outreach programs, I did get some good
paddling in! It’s always good to be back on the Nile – I appreciate being able
to paddle there so much. Between the quality of paddling and play features, the
warm water, the beauty of the river, and the easy access, there really is no
place like it. So, it was very sad to learn that the largest of three proposed
dams to be built at the rapid known as Malalu has been approved for construction.
This is extremely disappointing but not
totally surprising. Anyone who has spent time in Africa knows that supposed
rules of law are rarely applied and enforced. In this particular case, when the
Silverback dam was constructed, which made Bujagali Falls a lake, an offset
agreement was signed between the World Bank and the government of Uganda to
preserve an area of the Nile that includes Itanda Falls and approximately 25
kilometers of the Nile and its riverbanks below Itanda. The Dam at Malalu also
known as the Isimba dam would not produce much power whether the largest or
smallest dam is selected to be built. This dam is really an interim way to
cover small power needs until the Karuma Dam is completed much farther down
stream. The Karuma dam is a very large power project and will be finished in
approximately 7 years. The Isimba dam is to be fast tracked and completed in
2½ years – really soon!
In the Isimba case, the
smallest dam of the three options would preserve the Kalagala offset agreement
and supply power as an interim measure albeit slightly less power than the
medium or large sized dams. Although the word in Uganda is that the largest dam
has been selected at Isimba, nothing is written in stone yet – and so if any of
you reading this blog want to help, please email/write to SATU (Save Adventure
Tourism in Uganda: Wordpress page; Facebook page),
or Kayak the Nile, or Nile River Explorers, and sign the petition to save the
Nile – the more people that express interest in saving the Nile, the bigger
voice we have. In addition, if anyone reading this has news/publicity
connections and wants to help, please get in touch and help spread the word!
The fight to save the Nile is far from over and every person’s voice can help!!
Finally, make sure you come see and paddle this magnificent river before it
becomes a lake!
[Dr Jessie Stone is Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2014]